She is a young girl strong and decisive, her name is Mame.
As soon as she was able to walk, her parents gave her to her blind grandmother, “This girl will be your legs and your eyes”. And that’s how, since then Mame brings her grandmother to beg in the center of Dakar, always in the same place where everyone knows her and if they don’t have spare change the people give sugar or something to eat.
In this way, with Mame’s help, this blind old lady supports an entire family – extended family -- including children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews and their children, the house in which they all live is on the outskirts of Dakar.
Strong and decisive, at eight years old, she wanted to go to school. And signed herself up, secretly. She’s the legs and eyes of her grandmother who supports the entire family through begging. How could she do it? She chose the elementary school right across the street from where her grandmother begs. This way she could run out if her grandmother needed help.
Women for Girls pays the school fees and supplies.
Today, Mame is fifteen, beautiful, shy but still strong and decisive. Her high school is one hour away from where her grandmother sits with an open hand waiting for something to be placed in it.
They leave at four in the morning from the outskirts, almost two hours by bus, Mame brings her grandmother to her begging spot then walks an hour to her high school. After school they make the reverse trip. Mame is tired, she gets very little sleep, only speaks Wolof at home because no one has ever gone to school, no one knows French. Her dream is to become an airline hostess. She is also studying English.
In November we visited the family and they were dressed for the occasion.
For years she lived with her mother under a tree in Place d’Indepéndance in the center of Dakar. We met her while visiting a school. The teachers let her come early so she could wash up before the other kids arrived. The mother had no work, no money, was illiterate, never went to school, and usually begged for their food. She is a widow with scars on her face, battered by her deceased husbands family who made them leave the property.
Now they live happily in a small room almost two hours from the center. Women for Girls pays school fees, supplies and their rent, generously offered by two Italian families.
It seems like a happy ending to a fairytale…
Ndeye speaks French well, reads it too fast that she makes mistakes, writes neatly and keeps her notebooks well organized. Her small school backpack is full of hope and dreams. Sometimes these endings happen in real life.